Sunday, February 9, 2014

CBR VI # 2 - Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry

I went into this book thinking that I would get an answer to the cliffhanger ending of The Giver. Was Jonas and Baby Gabriel safe? Or was it the final delusions of a dying kid? Well, I was sorely disappointed when the book opened to depict a society completely different from the Community. What was the connection? Well, I just decided to go ahead and enjoy the book on its merits and not as a sequel. Kira lives in a mainly hunter-gatherer society (with a little backyard agriculture) where survival of the fittest is paramount. It’s a tough world and physical weakness is not tolerated in fact, the weak and people with disabilities are left in a field to die. The story opens with Kira mourning for her mother in their dumpsite for the dead. Kira is lame in one leg and her mother, an influential person in their village, protected her when her defective leg should have meant certain death. Her dad is thought of to be dead from a hunting accident when she was still a baby so it was just her and her mother. Upon her mother’s death, her position in the tribe is threatened by the other stronger tribemates who wanted her land. Fortunately, she is saved by her talent in embroidering. The Council of Guardians appointed her to become the official embroiderer, meant to dedicate her life to repairing a cape which depicts the history of their people. Of humankind. In the surprisingly modern building (there’s running water!) where Kira is housed along with the official carver and the trainee singer, she learns more about history and the inner workings of her village. 

 I didn’t really see the connection between this book and The Giver until almost the end of the book. ****SPOILERS***** Kira’s friend, a poor (even for her village’s standards) boy named Matt ran away to find color blue thread for Kira’s embroidery. He end up in a village where it turns out took in all the handicapped and physically deformed people from their village who were left for dead. One of those people was Kira’s father who had become blind and was not, in fact dead. He came back for Kira and asked her to return with him to the Utopian village but Kira wanted to make things in her village better and declined. But anyway, Matt mentioned that the leader of the village was a young guy with pale eyes. Oh hello Jonas! But it was only in passing. ****END SPOILERS**** 

The structure of this book is quite like the Giver, in some way.  There is a society which you initially would not think to be the future.  In this case, however, the society is not initially presented as utopia but it is quite clear that times were bad and things had turned primitive.  Like, the Giver, there is a young person chosen for a special job, one in which they learn about the past and their eyes are opened to how bad the society they are living in is.  They also attempt to do something to try to make the world a better place.  Jonas by leaving, any Kira by staying.  Unfortunately, like The Giver, I also found Gathering Blue to be simplistic and kind of childish.  It also has the added disadvantage of the mythology, the society not being as interesting to me as in the Giver.  It was really just ok for me (I know, I'm starting to sound like Randy Jackson).

Sunday, February 2, 2014

CBR VI #1- The Giver by Lois Lowry

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I like how when you read the book, it doesn't really feel like the future. In fact, the setting seems positively retro with the bikes and the innocence, like the 50s or something. But its not. Jonas, he of pale eyes, lives in a Community where everything is regimented. Everything and everyone has its place and time. Your path is set from the moment you are born from your birthmother until the moment you are released from old age. Jonas is in the 11th year of his life and in the next ceremony, when he (and everybody born in the same year as him) will turn 12 and will be assigned their official jobs.  In the ceremony, Jonas is surprised when he is given a very special job.  He is to be the receiver of memory.  The job is a mystery to everybody, especially to Jonas, but it turns out that the job entails absorbing memories from the Giver, who was formerly the Receiver.  The memories are not just memories of a single person, but memories of their people.  Of a more colorful (literally) and chaotic past.  Hundreds of years of memories.  Jonas receives these memories, both the amazing and the horrifying.  It changes him (well that and the NO MEDICATION) and leads him into making a choice to either leave the safety and sameness of his Community or try his chances Elsewhere.

In reading sci-fi, fantasy, zombie or vampire books, I am always very interested in the world building.  I thought that the world, the Community was pretty plausible.  Feeling and emotion is erased I think chemically by drinking medicine everyday.  Everything is planned and organized meticulously.  I like how at first, the world seems utopian until Jonas digs deeper and well, you see the world as it really is.  There is peace, but what is peace without freedom?  The moment where it really hit me was when I realized that the Community had no colour!  I guess everything was in black and white?  That's my favourite thing about how the book is written, when you are slowly made to realize that this perfect world is anything but.

The thing that confused me a bit about the book was that I thought it was going to be pure science fiction but then there's Jonas with the special powers to see colour and to receive and feel memories.  I don't know, I guess it's not necessarily bad, just a bit disorienting.  I liked the book, but I was a bit disappointed that it was a bit simplistic, I guess.  Maybe because it's a children's book and it's supposed to be that way?  I just felt that the events leading to the ending were just.. that's it?  It gave me that sort of feeling.  But I actually liked the ending, in that Jonas was not able to magically fix or overturn the system.  The solution is smaller, more personal, but its effects still resound to the community and to the reader.

I live in a country where we didn't really have any public libraries and when I was a kid.  Our teachers didn't really assign us any books to read in grade school and brand new ones were pretty pricey for our family.  What I'm trying to say is, I think I would have liked this better if I had read this as the intended audience, when I was a kid.  As it is, I like it, but I wasn't really blown away.

PS.  Being a completist, my next three reviews will be the companion books.  The ending was sort of a cliff hanger so I was interested to know what really happened.